The Guildford office of Acorn Ecology is where I find myself doing my placement. It is the end of week three with one to go. The time has gone by very quickly, the combination of site visits, office work and bat surveys have made for a busy few weeks. They also say time flies when you’re having fun, so I will take this as a good sign. Looking back I have learned a lot in these few weeks. On my first day I met Sarah and Martin on site for a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal of a house. Comparing how much more confident I am now with such work is very satisfying. I am now much more capable of categorising habitats, identifying plants and spotting key features to target note.
It really helped me to see work done from beginning to end, i.e. from the data collection to writing it up as part of a report. I am now better able to visualise what my Phase 1 map should look like as I am taking notes in the field, I am better placed to record relevant detail when carrying out bat surveys, to name a couple of examples. It has been very useful for me to practice carrying out Preliminary Bat Surveys, assessing buildings for their suitability for bats. It has been highlighted that one thing that certainly needs more work are my building and architectural terms!
I have had the opportunity to carry out several activity transects as part of my placement. These were valuable experience for to practice identifying bats from heterodyne detectors and recording data. It gave me a real thrill to be able to bats flying overhead during such evening surveys. They are wonderful creatures to watch, especially their darting, unpredictable flight while foraging. The dusk emergence surveys are a different experience, but it is still very enjoyable to witness a bat dart out of a building. Dawn re-entry surveys are a different experience again. It is certainly an interesting experience driving around at 2 in the morning to a site! Sadly no bats were seen, but it was enjoyable to see a mother going backwards and forwards out of a crevice to feed her chicks.
One unexpected bonus of the placement comes from writing up several species list. For example it is now indelibly inked in my brain that Lolium perenne is the latin name for perennial ryegrass and Urtica dioica is the latin name for common nettle. This information is both useful from a professional sense and enables me to be smug if asked what certain grass species are. I was introduced gradually to report writing as I went along, starting with the aforementioned species lists, Phase 1 maps and PBS maps. I then moved on to writing various parts of the results and methods sections. This step by step approach helped me to develop an understanding of the structure of Preliminary Ecological Appraisals and Preliminary Bat Surveys from the ground up.
It is, of course, the people that make the greatest difference to your experience, so it was most heartening to find Martin and Sarah to be lovely people who are always more than happy to help with whatever queries and questions you may have. You will also find several to many dogs in residence at the office. Despite your best efforts you will end up talking to them like an idiot, so my advice is to embrace it and do this from the start.